My spies alert me to some fascinating science and tech stuff on the web (thanks, guys!) and it’s time to share again.
If you put lots of metronomes on a table and start them at different times, they look for all the world as though they notice each other and gradually agree to line up so that their ticking is synchronised. See a very cute video of it here and read about why it happens.
Read the comments, too. As a musician I particularly liked the one from Bill Benzon:
I make synchrony the centerpiece of my book on music, Beethoven’s Anvil: Music in Mind and Culture, where I discuss Strogatz on fireflies and Barbasi on synchronized clapping. I argue that, when people make music together they individually give up so many degrees of freedom that the overall neural-state space for the group is no larger than that for any one independent individual. And that’s a good thing, otherwise no one in the audience would be able to make sense of the performance as no one has more than their own brain available to make sense of the sound.
2. Light at one trillion frames per second
If the metronomes made you smile, this one will make your jaw hit the ground. The TED talk speaker leads a group which takes high-speed video to levels I had never even contemplated: they have made a movie of a beam of light progressing through a Coke bottle. I have seen it and I still think it sounds flat-out impossible but I have to accept that they have done it.
More geeky fun
Previous posts: Lightning, mathematical butterflies and Kottke’s blog; interactive periodic table; the scale of the universe; or just browse the ‘technology’ category via the sidebar menu.